Saturday, November 10, 2007



Again, I braved the perils of air travel to meet my life-long goal of a trip to Skokie, Illinois.

So, I woke up at 5am, crawled into my car, and drove as fast as possible to the airport to catch a 7:15am flight.

I used the e-ticket machine to print boarding passes for that flight and the return, but grumbled about the lateness of the return trip the whole time.

After a day of adventure in Skokie, I returned to the airport and (boarding pass in hand) got in line to hopefully swap it for one on an earlier flight.

When the person in the line in front of me finished checking his bags, I walked up to take his place at the counter.

"Were you in line?" the lady asked.

"Yes," I smiled my most charming smile, "I just need . . . "

"Please return to the line and wait to be called."

I did so. When I turned around, she waved me over and we both pretended that that had never happened.

But I knew that my chances of scoring an earlier flight hinged almost entirely on whether this woman liked me or not. So I started off with,"As much as I've enjoyed my time in Chicago, is there any way I could get an earlier flight home?"

"Tired of us already?" I think she was smiling. Could have been a grimace, though.

"Oh, no. I fully intend to purchase a hot dog on my way out and that should just about conclude my business. If I could get on the 5:39pm flight I might be home in time to put my daughter to bed."

"No baggage?" she was no longer looking at me but typing furiously on the hidden screen. I pressed my luck.

"Physical? No. Emotional? Don't get me started!"

No. Reaction. At. All.

"Are you a (insert whatever United calls their frequent flyer program) member?"

I wondered how much it mattered as I replied that I was not.

"Mr. Pass, did you have any issue with security on your trip this morning?"

I recalled the standard shoes-off-everything-metal-in-a-tub routine. "Not especially, no."

"Enjoy your trip through this time," I promise -- She smirked,"I've got you on stand-by for the 5:39pm. If you miss it, come back and we will get you on the 8pm."

And all was well. I stood in the insanely long line. I muttered under my breath with everyone else. I tapped my foot. I checked the time over and over and over.

When I handed my boarding pass and driver's license to the TSA guy at the final pre-metal detector checkpoint, he peered at me an unusually long time, then waved over a woman with a gun.

"Mr. Pass, please proceed to the scanning station. You've been selected for special screening," and he looked almost apologetic.

"Why do I get the feeling that isn't a free movie?"

"Your boarding pass is flagged -- See right here -- SSSS" he pointed, and it was,"That means you are flagged for an extra few checks."

Friends, before Friday night I couldn't tell you the last time I'd been groped in public by two federal employees wearing blue rubber gloves. And I was really happy about that fact. I felt a little weird afterwards, like we should have exchanged phone numbers or something. What, exactly, is the etiquette when someone who is not allowed to accept my health insurance card gropes me?

There are workplaces where jokes are actually forbidden. As much as that system sucks, I no longer recommend trying to insert levity into those workplaces. They hate that. Apparently, they hate that a lot.

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